BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Local experts in treating and preventing opioid abuse and addiction are putting together a battle plan to fight the epidemic. Doctors, police, social workers, and others have come up with some recommendations they believe will make an impact.
East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark says so far this year, there have been 80 opioid overdoses: 36 from heroin and 22 from fentanyl. Dr. Clark says several more cases are still pending and the market for prescription pain medications keeps opening up. “Recently, the FDA made a decision to approve a new opioid, which again, blows my mind because I’m thinking, we are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. We don’t need any more opioids,” Clark said.
In an effort to shut the door on the increasing misuse of opioids, 130 medical experts in treatment and prevention services answered EBR Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s call to commit to coming up with a community-wide response plan to address the opioid epidemic. “I believe this report will serve as an excellent tool for specific action steps for organizations and individuals concerned with behavior health issues,” Broome said.
The report, which was made public Wednesday, is the result of 18 months worth of meetings and research. The Capital Region Behavioral Health Collaborative broke down nine areas these experts believe must be expanded to really reach people trapped in the nightmare of opioid abuse and addiction. Some of the targeted areas include criminal justice reform, prescribing practices, using different methods of pain management, and treatment of pregnant women.
Executive director of Capital Area Human Services, Jan Kasofsky Ph.D., says the goal is to come up with prevention strategies that help reduce risk factors. “Different providers will be collecting different data that is specific to that one area,” Kasfosky said.
That information will be used to deploy community resources aimed at reducing harmful consequences and deaths from opioids. “Now we are ready to take the next step, which is to save lives,” Clark said.
The group will meet again in March to discuss their specific plan of action.